OUR WONDERFUL LIBRARIES – not just books!
All libraries provide books, CDs, dvds, ebooks, audiobooks for loan for adults and children. Most have free wifi and computers for public use. Daily newspapers and magazines are also available. Other services, special collections, events and activities, rooms for hire are listed below. Check websites for opening hours, locations and how to join the library.
City of London
The main library is housed in the Barbican Centre. Also provided are two smaller branches, children’s libraries and a home library service. The music library in the Barbican holds the largest collection of CDs in all London public libraries, together with books, scores and two pianos for public use. The Guildhall reference library holds a specialist collection on the history of London. The City Business Library supports business with free access to publications and databases, meetings, seminars and workshops on specialist topics.
Westminster has 14 branch libraries and a home library service. The main reference collection is held in St Martin’s Street close by the National Gallery. The Victoria branch houses a large specialist music collection, including books, sheet music, choral and chamber sets for loan and specialist musical software. A Yamaha digital piano is free to use when you book in advance. The Charing Cross branch near Chinatown, provides a large collection of books, DVDs and CDs in Chinese for the Chinese community. Chinese-speaking staff are on hand to offer assistance. As part of the ‘Reach for the Skies’ project, over-18 library members can borrow a telescope on request.
Hackney library service provides 8 branches and a home library service. Free online learning, information and reference services, children’s libraries and holiday activities are all available. The central library has a special Health Spot collection with books and information to promote health and fitness, good nutrition and physical and mental wellbeing. Central also offers a debt advice service. CLR James branch runs a community law centre, a Stroke Drop-In centre and a African and Caribbean Heritage writing group. Clapton branch runs a monthly session with U3A and loans toys from the toy library. Stoke Newington branch runs a monthly classical music group. Hackney library members are entitled to discounts at the Arcola Theatre and the Rio Cinema.
Newham has 10 branch libraries and an archives centre. They also organise coffee mornings, reading groups, chess clubs, crafts and activities such as knitting and
embroidery, health and fitness such as yoga, pilates, zumba and film clubs. Beckton library runs an art club for people recovering from a stroke. Green Street branch runs a special club for Conversational English for women. Manor Park branch has a Diabetes support group. There is a club for women with mental health problems at Plaistow branch, and at Stratford branch, the Alzheimer’s Society runs singing sessions. Forest Gate branch has a cancer advice service and also runs a breakfast club for library members
Libraries in Tower Hamlets are called ‘Ideas Stores’. They are housed in modern architectually renowned new buildings, offering traditional library services for adults and children, as well as adult learning courses on a wide range of subjects and a varied programme of events and activities. The Local Studies library in Bancroft Road includes a Digital Gallery of life in Tower Hamlets over the centuries. The East End History Club runs drop-in sessions which are free and open to everyone. Whitechapel, Chrisp Street and Canary Wharf branches run a free legal advice service.
There are 8 branch libraries in Waltham Forest and a home library service. Online learning courses, including driving test theory preparation and IT skills and regular community events and activities. The local studies and archives collection is based in the Vestry Museum, once a Victorian workhouse, later a police station, and which now houses a rich collection on the history and heritage of the local area.
Barnet has 14 branch libraries and a local studies and archives service. There is also a mobile library and a home library service. Two community libraries are run by volunteers. The Barnet book club loans sets of books to support reading groups and local music and choral societies can borrow vocal score sets. http://www.barnet.gov.uk /
Brent has 6 branch libraries. In addition to English language fiction and non-fiction, they provide books in Indic, Arabic and European languages. The Harlesden and Wembley branches offer a weekly careers advice service and Harlesden also provides a Black Identity Zone. The archives and local studies service is based at Willesden Green.
Camden has one central library, 8 branch libraries, a local studies and archives service and a home library service. There are also 3 community libraries run by volunteers. Swiss Cottage central library is a Grade II listed building, designed by Sir Basil Spence. Free on-line digital and reference services for members. Strong collections in philosophy and psychology, music scores and drama. There is a walkway through to the adjoining Leisure Centre with gyms, swimming pool and sports facilities. The poet John Keats lived in Keats House, next door to Keats Grove library. Keats lived here in 1819 and it is said to have composed ‘Ode to a Nightingale’ here. Open to the public.
Haringey has 9 branch libraries. The Highgate branch has a regular reading group. Hornsey runs fitness classes, Knitting for Dementia sessions, literacy and maths workshops. Marcus Garvey branch offers fortnightly help sessions with the Advisory Group on Alcohol, as well as a CAB drop-in centre, sexual health advice sessions, and a reading group for African and Caribbean women. St Ann’s branch runs fitness classes, a weekly coffee morning and a music club for children up to 18. The main library is at Wood Green. Here you will find One You, a lifestyle programme for local residents over 18, careers advice, tuition in maths and literacy using the Kumon System and a film club.
All Islington branches run regular events and activities, fitness classes and homework clubs. The Central library has a First Steps Learning Centre and runs ESOL classes. All local residents are entitled to use the free personal development and employability service. The Cat and Mouse library and Lewis Carroll libraries provide books and other media, events and activities for children. The local history and archives service is based at the Finsbury branch. A collection the books defaced by the playwright Joe Orton is also held at the Finsbury branch. The Computer Skills Centre provides free IT training for anyone over 19 who is unemployed or a low wage earner.
Greenwich library service includes 12 libraries and a home library service. The main library is housed in the Greenwich Centre. Some of the branches run a film club, Ballet Babe sessions, reading groups, children’s activities, arts and crafts sessions and IT training. The Greenwich Centre library provides 44 computer stations. West Greenwich now run a Street Dance class for children
Lewisham has 13 libraries, 7 run by the council, 6 run in conjunction with community and voluntary organisations. Deptford Lounge library runs Tai Chi and IT training sessions as well as a film club. Downham branch has a film club, IT sessions for seniors, and a careers advice service. Manor House branch has a crafts club and is a popular venue for art exhibitions. Sydenham and Torridon Road run regular seated exercise groups. Torridon Road also has a weekly Tea and Cake Monday for people with dementia, ESOL classes, and an Emotional Support Group.
Lambeth has 10 branches and a home library service. Most of them provide books in Indic, Asian and European languages. Durning branch is a fine Victorian Grade II listed building and runs ESOL classes. The Clapham branch runs a chess club, and the Brixton branch holds the main reference collection. There are sessions for children and under-5s in most branches and Tate South Lambeth runs a teen reading group. The Carnegie branch is a classic example of Carnegie library architecture and was recently saved from closure. Local studies and archives are held at the Minet library.
Southwark has 12 libraries, many of great architectural interest. The Peckham library, a revolutionary design by Will Alsop, won the Stirling Prize for architecture. Southwark also has two fine examples of Passmore Edwards libraries, Dulwich and Nunhead. Kingswood branch is housed in Kingswood House, a fine historic building often used as a location for filming. The Canada Water branch was designed by Piers Gough. The Brandon branch has a weekly pensioners’ drop-in with refreshments, as well as careers advice and an English language conversation group. Dulwich has a film club, regular talks and lectures, a poetry group, a biography book group and creative writing classes. East Street branch holds the special Spanish language collection, including Spanish and Latin American authors of fiction, non-fiction books, Spanish language dvds and classes for Spanish-speakers learning English. The John Harvard branch has a classic literature reading group, a scrabble club and Peckham branch offers weekly afternoon tea with short stories. The local studies and archives collection is also at the John Harvard branch. There is a home library service.
Kingston has 7 libraries and a home library service. All branches run activities for toddlers and children, reading groups for adults and most run Silver Surfers clubs (IT for the over 50s). Hook and Chessington, Old Malden and Tudor Drive branches run knitting groups. Kingston branch has a weekly coffee morning and runs ESOL classes. Kingston and Hook and Chessington branches run ECDL (European Computer Driving Licence) classes. Hook and Chessington has a crime readers club and an art group. Old Malden branch runs a community police drop-in and Tolworth runs a family history group. The Local History and Archives centre is based at The Guildhall.
Merton has 7 libraries and a home library service, a local studies centre and Heritage Centre. Every branch holds Falun Dafa sessions and there is also a yoga class at Morden and Wimbledon branches and mantra singing ad meditation at at Raynes Park and Wimbledon. Colliers Wood branch has an art class for adults and children. The British Red Cross teaches first aid here and at West Barnes branch. Knitting clubs at Colliers Wood, Morden, Pollards Hill and West Barnes, and a special jewellery-making class at Raynes Park. Language courses include Spanish at Morden and German and Spanish at Wimbledon, ESOL at Colliers Wood and Morden. Philosophy study group at Wimbledon. Morden has extra services for children, including a Child Sensory Library with toys available for loan, chess for children, Lego for 5-12 year-olds and a homework club. Maths support at Mitcham and Wimbledon. Information and advice for deaf and hard of hearing at Raynes Park and Wimbledon. Community police drop-in at Raynes Park. West Barnes has a Rendezvous Club for the over-55s.
Richmond has 12 branches. All offer IT training, author talks, local history lectures, poetry, quiz nights and other activities for adults and children. There is a dedicated reference and local studies centre based at the Old Town Hall, a fine building in ‘Elizabethan Renaissance’ style which opened in 1893. The Teddington branch is a classic Carnegie library and the Twickeham branch is a Grade II listed building.
Wandsworth has 11 branches and a home library service. Every branch has a reading group. Balham, Earlsfield, Putney, Wandsworth and Tooting branches run ESOL classes. Ballet Babes sessions are held at Northcote, Southfelds, and York Gardens. Earlsfield also runs a fitness group and an arts and crafts club. Local Studies and Archives are held at the Lavender Hill site, and is open to the public.
Ealing has 13 branch libraries, a home library service, and provides a library service for patients at St Bernard’s Hospital. Most branches run sessions for babies and toddlers. Special language collections are held at Greenford branch (Asian language dvds and newspapers), Southall branch (Indic languages), West Ealing branch (Polish, Tamil and Indic languages together with language courses). The Central library holds the local history collections and archives, and also provides music scores and runs a reading group.
Hammersmith and Fulham
Hammersmith has 6 branch libraries, a home library service and a local studies and archives centre. The Avonmore branch provides one-to-one IT training sessions. Fulham branch has a good collection of fiction in European languages as well as the Serbian Society collection. The reference collection specialises in fine art and religion. Shepherd’s Bush branch provides a quiet study area, music listening stations and the language collections specialise on Arabic and Indic languages.
Hounslow has 11 branch libraries and a home library service. The Feltham, Cranford, Heston and Osterley branches provide books and newspapers in Indic languages. Hounslow branch also provides books and dvds in Indic languages, Arabic and European languages.
Kensington and Chelsea
Kensington and Chelsea has 6 libraries and a home library service. The Central Library has a Business Information Point, a blood pressure machine and large special collections in biography and folklore and customs. Chelsea branch holds a large special collection on fashion and costume. The Book Break reading project which encourages social inclusion and improves mental and physical well-being runs sessions at the Central and Chelsea branches. Careers advice sessions are offered at Central and Chelsea branches.